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It's the blooming season

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Russ Helwig | May 22, 2014

Six hikers and one small and very friendly canine companion walked around Lake LaGrange last week Tuesday. As usual this was a pleasant hike. The lake was up a bit from the very recent heavy rains but the trail was in very good shape.

On Wednesday last week, Norwin Watson led a group of thirteen hikers and one dog with a short leash on a long walk from the Emma Carlin trailhead on County Highway Z to Tamarack Road on the Ice Age Trail.

Norwin reported the highlights of his walk which I summarized as follows.

Two of the hikers who wanted a longer hike that was closer to ten miles decided to start hiking from Tamarack Road. In their packs, they had a lunch which they ate at the Carlin trailhead before hiking back. They knew the trail well and exchanged greetings with the rest of Nowin's group as they passed each other on the trail.

The recent heavy rain had left some water running on the trail in an area about a mile into the hike. Closer to Horseriders Park there was a short stretch with some mud and a couple other spots with a small stream across the path. Other than that he trail was found to be in good shape.

On the way they met four backpackers from Northwestern University. They were originally from Pennsylvania. They exchanged friendly conversation and some photos were taken.

Gerhard Stegemann and the backpackers were lucky enough to see a scarlet tanager. Many wildflowers were seen including bellwort, spring beauties, and wood anemone. May apples and Solomon seal were in bud stage and eight morels were found along the trail.

Norwin's pedometer read 4.8 miles for the walk which ended by a trip to the LaGrange General Store for lunck.

Ellen Davis wrote on Wednesday's short walk:

Twenty-one hikers car-pooled to the Muir trails for a short three-mile outing on the white trail.  Our group today included six first-timers and two returning to the trails after a winter's rest. The sign at the entrance stated that the trails were closed to bicycles today because of recent heavy rainstorms; this allowed us to hike the clockwise bicycle route – opposite of our usual direction – for a new perspective.

The day was overcast and cool, and Jake set a nice brisk pace. We had heard several reports of morel-hunting successes in the last few days, so a few of us (at least) kept scanning the woods at the sides of the trail for those elusive shapes. We saw scattered anemones, occasional buttercups, a few spring beauties, some impressive Jack-in-the-pulpits, and numerous shooting stars still in the bud. Our new hikers were introduced to garlic mustard and honeysuckle – our most common invasives. A pair of geese flew up honking as we passed the large kettle lake. We stopped to watch, and noticed several more nesting pairs watching us, with only their heads and necks visible above the reeds.

There was only one brief impediment to our progress -- a tree that had fallen across the trail. It was easy to climb over, but could be very dangerous for the mountain bikers. Don Howell was able to contact forest headquarters on his cell phone so that it could be removed before the trail was re-opened for bicycles. 

We completed our hike in record time.  I had seen no morels – and nobody else would admit to seeing any. We adjourned to the La Grange General Store, joined by several of our new hikers, for coffee, soup, sandwiches, and conversation.

Flower walk:

Two of us decided to check out a few areas for wildflowers last week Wednesday. Not that we wouldn't encounter some on the trails, but because we wanted to check for some of the less common ones which grow in certain areas.

We checked both wet spots and dry sand and gravel areas. We found that the wet area plants were still dormant while the drier areas had an abundance of plant growth, but they were not yet at their peak. Plants we found in bloom were bird's-foot violet, hoary puccoon, prairie smoke, pussy toes, the rare kitten's-tails, violet wood sorrel, and shooting star. We only found one shooting star plant in bloom and others were in bud stage. The pasqueflower was found past bloom but there were many with their showy hairy seed heads blowing in the wind.

Before returning to our meeting place we had lunch at the Sunny Side Up restaurant in Delafield.

Happy Trekking,

Russ



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